To appreciate the Pink Bourbon, and all it has to offer, first I need to talk about varieties in general. Each coffee plant has a different genetic makeup due to generations of development and changes in surroundings. A good way to think about it is to compare coffee plants to apple trees. All apple trees produce apples but depending on the “variety” of the tree, you’ll get a different kind of apple. If you think of a Granny Smith, Fuji, and Red Delicious apple, each will have its unique characteristics ranging from sweetness, acidity, and even color. Coffee works the same way. You’ll get a different type of coffee depending on the variety of the plant.
A Little More About Varieties
Here’s a summary of a few different varieties. Understanding these varieties is a foundational step to appreciating all that coffee has to offer.
Typica: This variety is considered the foundation of pretty much all other varieties because nearly all varieties genetically trace back to it. The flavor notes are generally smooth and sweet.
Bourbon: This variety is very widely grown and is one of the more common varieties we offer here at Sagebrush. Its sweetness and complexity make it a very versatile and well-balanced coffee.
Caturra: Caturra is a mutation of Bourbon. The flavor profile tends to lean towards a more acidic cup.
Geisha: This is the top-tier royalty of the coffee varieties. This variety has broken records for auction prices at coffee competitions, selling for up to $803/lb per unroasted pound. Yep, not a typo, $803/lb per unroasted pound. We don’t offer Geisha as often, but when we can we get pretty excited about it.
The Bourbon Variety
Today we’ll be focusing on the Bourbon variety. To really appreciate where the Pink Bourbon comes from, understanding its “parent variety” is important. I love reading about how we have cultivated coffee from a historical perspective, so here’s a little history that I found to be very interesting.
Seeds of the Bourbon variety were first sold to the French by the British East India Company and were first planted on the island of Bourbon, which was later renamed Reunion Island, around 1708. The French first occupied the island in 1632. It would later be claimed by the British for a period of time but was eventually given back to the French. The island is located in the Indian Ocean, just east of Madagascar.
The Bourbon variety produces higher yields than other varieties and creates an excellent cup of coffee. There is a disadvantage though, as its cherry ripens quickly making it susceptible to disease. So, while it provides a great cup of coffee, keeping it healthy for a longer period of time requires special attention and a lot more care from the farmer.
Pink Bourbon, Where Did it Come From?
Either the Pink Bourbon is somewhat obscure, or historical accounts about the variety have been lost. A significant amount of Pink Bourbon is now grown in South America, but during my research, I couldn’t find out if the variety was developed in South America or while it was still on the island of Bourbon.
Regardless of where it was first developed, the Pink Bourbon would begin its introduction to the coffee industry out of Brazil. The variety that was developed produces a pink cherry rather than a bright red one, hence how it got its name. So how did this mysterious variety make its way from Brazil to the rest of South America like Huila Colombia? That's unclear as well. Most of the stories I read mentioned how farmers got their seed from another farmer who got their seed from another farmer and so on. Nobody seems to know who exactly developed it or who spread it beyond Brazil.
Advantages of the Pink Bourbon Variety
As I stated earlier, the Bourbon bean is very susceptible to disease because the cherry matures so quickly. But, what is interesting about the Pink Bourbon is that because it is a hybrid, it's stronger and sturdier than traditional the Bourbon. It helps to solve the problem of early maturation and helps with producing higher and healthier yields. You have to be careful with it though, as the quality of the coffee can vary depending on how it is farmed. When farmed right, it creates a delicious cup of coffee.